Hal Miller Was Partly Responsible for My (Very) Brief Movie Career [VIDEO]
When the sad news came Friday morning that local icon Hal Miller had passed away, I immediately began recalling all the great times my family and I spent at Windy Hollow over the years. That includes my one and only movie role. Well, I was an extra.
Anyway, the movie never got made.
A few years ago I blogged about that experience and, as a tribute to Hal, I thought I’d bring it back out and dust it off and give it another run.
(Originally published September 27, 2011)
THE WILD, WILD WEST…ERN DAVIESS COUNTY
Back in 1972, my family and I headed out to Windy Hollow to watch the filming of “The Marshal of Windy Hollow” starring old b-movie western favorites like Ken Maynard, Sunset Carson, Hal Riddle and Wild Bill Cody. The film’s producers used Windy Hollow because, back then, the area was used for coal-strip mining and resembled the western United States. I was a little kid and didn’t know who any of those actors were. But my dad did, and so, for the occasion, we were all decked out in western garb. As we stood on the side of an old dirt road behind where the restaurant used to be, wagons were lining up for a scene that would involve a gun battle. While we waited on the sidelines for the action to begin, a crew member walked up to me and asked if I’d like to be an extra in the movie. I was only 6 years old and hesitant to go with this stranger. But I became more comfortable when he asked my sister to come along. As I said, we were wearing western style clothing and fit right in. So we walked over to one of the wagons and climbed in. There were other kids in the wagon and a lady who was playing our mother who was smoking. I found that odd. Did they HAVE filtered cigarettes in the 1800s? But when the cameras rolled, the cigarette was snuffed and the wagon was rolling. We were taken down that same dirt road and back into some rather hilly countryside in western Daviess County. As a kid, it looked mountainous to me. And, I suppose it would look the same way to a low-angled camera. I remember the wagon eventually stopping. And we waited, and waited, and waited. Soon, we began to hear gunshots. Somebody somewhere yelled something and the next thing you know all us kids were picked up, yanked out of the wagon, and thrown into a small, brushy ravine. And we waited, and waited, and waited. And…that was it. We were returned to our parents, ticks were removed, and we moved on to our next assignment. Well, my dad’s next assignment.
THESE CARDS ARE MARKED!
Down around the Windy Hollow Speedway at the bottom of the hill, there once stood a large white barn. It was there that the movie crew fashioned an old saloon set where a poker game and bar fight scene were to be filmed. Dad, dressed in a white western shirt, jeans, and a cowboy hat, was asked to be an extra at the poker table. And he got to see some action. It was at the table where the fight broke out. So he had to throw his cards down and jump away. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to take part in the actual fake fight. I remember being a little disappointed. So was he. But it was a blast nonetheless.
THE MISSING MOVIE MYSTERY
So what ever became of the movie? A week and a half ago, my sister brought it up and then pictures from the set of the film appeared in the newspaper. I took it as a sign and began to do a little digging. Hal Miller is the proprietor of Windy Hollow Restaurant and was also the owner and operator of the Windy Hollow complex–campground, lake, general store–at the time of the filming. I recently spoke to Hal’s daughter, Evelyn McCarty, about “The Marshal of Windy Hollow” and inquired about its existence. Evelyn, who many know as “Rooster,” maintains Windy Hollow Restaurant’s Facebook page and informed me that the movie was not only unreleased, it was never completed. Now, the filming itself was finished, but a portion of the 16 millimeter film was never developed. It seems two of the film’s production partners didn’t get along. So, one of them decided to hold on to his part of the film to use as leverage to get what he wanted out of the production.
Around this time, Hal Miller’s business partner–his brother, Tom–passed away and Hal was thrust into full ownership and management of the Windy Hollow facility. Because of these new and awesome responsibilities, Hal decided not to pursue the red-tape-laden fiasco that had become “The Marshal of Windy Hollow.” Now, the portion of the film that WAS completed does exist; Rooster saw it with her family in North Carolina in late 1972 or early 1973. It had no soundtrack. And its whereabouts remain unknown to this day. Thankfully, Jerry Whittington, who played a part in the film, managed to put together a video for Youtube that features footage from the movie. It’s grainy, but it’s all we have, and, I for one am very happy it exists. Sure, there are photos, but I’m sure others who were involved in the making of the film would love to see it. As of this writing, that’s looking like a pipe dream. But the great memories are still there. I know I’ll never forget it.